Although I enjoy most of the resorts in Walt Disney World, I have a soft spot for the moderate resorts. They are a pricing tier above the value resorts, but I believe they hold the most value overall. Mainly, because of the smart way these particular hotels negotiate luxury and convenience. Although I personally love each of the moderate resorts, these three to five (I’ll explain later) options may not be what you personally had in mind.
Picking where to stay at Walt Disney World is not always an easy decision. But it can be narrowed down early on if you know how the hotels match your needs. The obvious reason people look into booking a Walt Disney World value hotel is budget. They are looking for– as the name suggests– value. If you want to stretch out your stay and enjoy more days in the theme parks and more recreation elsewhere, then a value hotel can be an appealing prospect. However, there is more to deciding on a value hotel and after that, which value hotel you will actually book.
What is the Best WDW Resort Hotel for You?
Which WDW Deluxe Resort Should I Pick?
Once you come to the conclusion that a Walt Disney World deluxe hotel really does provide the experience you’re after, the next step is choosing which one. It’s a very competitive category. Whereas the moderate and value hotels each have 5 to choose from, the deluxe category contains 8. That doesn’t even include the deluxe villas at Saratoga Springs, Old Key West and Disney’s Riviera Resort along with virtually all of the other 8 options. With villas in mind and a few other considerations here are some ways you might determine which Walt Disney World deluxe hotel is right for you.
Outliers in the Walt Disney World Deluxe Hotel Set
The best way to narrow things down amidst this broad set of Walt Disney World deluxe hotels, is to consider the marginal options first. For example, only two deluxe hotels at Walt Disney World offer spas. Saratoga Springs and the Grand Floridian may be your only options if you plan to enjoy a spa day on your trip. However, these spas are not exclusive to hotel guests, so if you don’t mind making the trip to another resort to get your spa treatments, that alone is no reason to settle on either of these hotels specifically.
Another factor is the villas mentioned above. Villas are much nicer accommodations for larger families or for a longer stay. The only issue is that the villas are quite expensive, to begin with, so if you are traveling on a budget, the option of a villa might require you to shorten your trip by a day or two. Likewise, the hotels you like to spend the least amount of time in allow you to book a longer vacation. You’ve got to appreciate the irony.
Most deluxe hotels have villas but there are a couple of exceptional hotels. Yacht Club has no villas. Its sister hotel Beach Club does. Wilderness Lodge on the other hand has two deluxe villas. Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge are very different offerings within the same themed surroundings.
Walt Disney World Deluxe Hotel Locations
In another way, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs are outliers as well. Each is a Walt Disney World deluxe hotel, a good deal off the beaten path. This is unusual as most deluxe hotels provide ease of access to at least one park as a major selling point. For example, The Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian Village resort hotels all provide foot access to the Magic Kingdom. They also offer monorail transportation and launch boats. Wilderness Lodge is just a ten-minute boat ride from the Magic Kingdom as well.
Over by EPCOT is the next big cluster of deluxe hotels. Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk Inn are right outside the side entrance to EPCOT. They’re also just a 20-minute walk from Disney Hollywood Studios. They have a Skyliner station as well. Most of the Walt Disney World deluxe hotel options have some sort of theme park connection. Even though they are not right up by the entrance, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Riviera Resort are in the Animal Kingdom and EPCOT resort areas respectively. Saratoga Springs and Old Key West are different. They’re not close to any parks. Instead, they have riverboat access to Disney Springs.
How to Choose a Walt Disney World Deluxe Hotel
We just covered most of the options for deluxe resorts and why you would choose them believe it or not. Besides key differences like the relative convenience of location, room size, and the presence of a spa, most of the hotels are pretty similar across the board in terms of the other offerings. The only real remaining differences are the theme of the hotel and the swimming pools.
With pools in mind, Beach Club is an outlier because it has by far the best pool. Your choice of pool is important only if you really plan to use it. However, if you do, you can only use the pool at the hotel for which you are a guest. This is a different policy than that for the restaurants or the spa-like I mentioned before. Evaluate what’s important to you, such as your favorite theme park, and then look at the theme you like the best.
If you want ultimate theme park access, you should really choose between the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, or the Polynesian Village. That’s because there are monorails to both the Magic Kingdom and to EPCOT. A really nice feature for a deluxe hotel to have.
Why Choose a Walt Disney World Moderate Hotel
Moderate Hotels at Walt Disney World mark that sweet spot of detailed theming, moderate convenience, reasonable pricing and just the right amount of frills. When you book a stay at a Deluxe resort you get certain benefits for the high nightly rate. Those benefits include a lot of hotel accommodations most people won’t spend any time on. A lot of guests don’t plan on spending enough time at their hotel to make the cost of all of these amenities worth the splurge. Especially when you can simply resort hop and enjoy most of the good stuff these hotels have to offer anyway.
Another thing I love is that because most of them feature outdoor entry, the rooms in moderate hotels tend to be quieter. Deluxe hotels have to leave a gap below the door which makes the rooms susceptible to hallway noise which can be a bit much.
Although Deluxe hotels corner the market on ultimate ease of travel within Walt Disney World, the moderate resorts are– generally speaking– reasonably plotted so you are relatively close to the major attraction in your particular resort area.
So let’s get into why you might choose to stay at a Walt Disney World moderate hotel, to begin with and then look at how you might decide which of these moderate hotels is right for you.
The very first moderate resort was Caribbean Beach. It has a very cool layout that surrounds a lagoon. The beach is broken up into segments, each resembling a different Caribbean Island. Although the resort is not Overtly pirate-themed, it does make use of a connection to Pirates of the Caribbean. The swimming pool for example resembles a Caribbean fort with water cannons for play. There is also a pirate-themed room but not all rooms are themed to Pirates of the Caribbean. This resort is convenient for guests who want easy access to EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Port Orleans Riverside
Port Orleans Riverside was Formerly Dixie Landings. It has maintained a lot of the original thematic elements. Riverside takes some inspiration from The Princess and the Frog, but there is a deeper backstory to the resort if you like high levels of thematic immersion. It’s also a very pleasant rural setting along a quiet river. A water taxi will take you by way of the river to Disney Springs just minutes away.
Port Orleans French Quarter
French Quarter is the New Orleans we all expect to see with a perpetual Mardis Gras atmosphere. This place is known for Jazzy music and boozy beignets. The New Orleans ornamental style wrought iron railings and cobblestone paths evoke thoughts of The Big Easy as well as its Disneyland counterpart New Orleans Square. This resort neighbors the Riverside alternative and is also in close proximity to Disney Springs.
What this Walt Disney World moderate hotel lacks in geographical convenience it more than makes up for in unprecedented luxury and style for a moderate resort. There are two elements to Coronado Springs, the sprawling main resort area has gorgeous landscaping and a cooperative Floridian climate supporting the notion of a tropical paradise. The Spanish American architecture immerses guests in yet another thematic touchpoint to Pirates of the Caribbean. The Salvador Dali inspired central tower Gran Destino is the crown jewel of the resort. The surrealist paintings and decor culminate in a rooftop dining experience of Spanish tapas in a restaurant inspired by the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.
Fort Wilderness Cabins
An unusual addition to the collection of Walt Disney World moderate hotels is the cabins at Fort Wilderness. This unique site truly is a wilderness location yet it is only minutes away from the Magic Kingdom by boat ride. Despite its seclusion, it’s also only a few minute’s drive away from the Four Seasons! Fort Wilderness has some neat tours and activities, especially recreation offerings from the neighboring Tri Circle D Ranch.
Alternatives to a Walt Disney World Moderate Hotel
If moderate resorts don’t seem right for you there are a couple of alternative options. a Good Neighbor hotel which is not Disney owned but maintains a quality standard set by Disney may be a good value for you. They tend to have a standard of a moderate resort or higher. While lacking in theme and Disney immersion, they are very affordable, particularly for what you get. The other choice is to take that step up to the Deluxes. Why you would choose a deluxe resort primarily boils down to location and convenience, immersive theming and a more extensive list of amenities.
Why Stay at a Walt Disney World Value Hotel?
The key characteristic of a value hotel is that they strive to maintain a Disney-centric atmosphere. Yet, the emphasis on theming takes a back seat. You see much more decor suggesting a very general theme than you do thematic architecture and facades designed to immerse you in a microcosm of Disney World such as the wilderness of the American Northwest or a Polynesian Village. For some guests, this is preferable and not for others. The guest who enjoys the status of Disney Characters and oversize whimsical props may feel like the value resorts have more Disney in them than the more expensive alternatives.
Another reason guests may prefer a value hotel at Walt Disney World is that they won’t spend much time at the hotel anyway and see little value in paying for extras they aren’t going to use. If all you need is a bed and a shower, why go to luxurious extremes when you are only going to be having fun away from your resort. The point is even more relevant when you consider that most of the fun to be had at any moderate or deluxe resort is available to the public to enjoy.
Since anyone from anywhere can enjoy most of what any resort has to offer regardless of guest status, there are only three deciding factors that make the difference for a visiting guest: Location; Room; and the Swimming Pool. Your opinions on the importance of these three things inform your decision, not only to choose a value hotel but which value hotel works best for your vacation.
The Value of Art of Animation
The top of the value hotel list is Art of Animation. It mostly has family suites and an upgraded level of theming compared to the other value resort hotels. Art of Animation is located along the Disney Skyliner path and has a shared station with Pop Century. This resort also has the Big Blue Pool, a Finding Nemo-themed pool with underwater music that is only available to hotel guests. Art of Animation features indoor room access, a feature typical of deluxe resorts, for three of its four wings. Another perk is Landscapes of Flavor, one of the more renowned food courts in Walt Disney World.
The Value of Pop Century
Pop Century has more modest accommodations, but maintains a relatively high level of theming among value hotels. It has a Skyiner station with access to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Pop Century is a fun nostalgia based resort that surrounds you with various pop references from the second half of the 20th Century.
The Value of the All-Stars
The value in the All-Star Resorts comes from the overall frugality. While they are not the cheapest hotels on the property, they are the cheapest Disney hotels. Each hotel in the All Star cluster has a feature that distinguishes it. The highlights are the family suites at All-Star Music, the pool at All-Star Sports, and the Food Court at All-Star Movies.
Alternatives to a Value Hotel
If a value hotel isn’t exactly the option you’re looking for, consider these two alternatives. First, you might find a little bit more room in your budget to upgrade to a moderate resort. Maybe you can shorten your stay by a day, or create a leaner dining plan to make up for it. The value of moderate hotels is that they have stronger thematic immersion but they don’t cost nearly as much as the deluxe resorts. The amenities offered are enough for a comfortable stay, but can’t be called luxurious by any definition of the word.
The other alternative to a Walt Disney World value hotel is the Good Neighbor Hotel. These non-Disney-owned hotels on the property provide nearly the same level of convenience and often better accommodations. Typically even a better class of hotel, like Hilton or Marriott, offers accommodations comparable to a deluxe resort without all the heavy theming for a rate lower than the value hotels.
One of the rationales I come into contact with regarding how people plan a Walt Disney World vacation is the sort of Go big or go home mentality of booking a Walt Disney World deluxe hotel. The logic is that the trip is already so expensive, so why not pay for the full experience? There is a valid point there depending on your view of what “the whole experience” entails.
There are plenty of great reasons to pick a deluxe hotel, but you must first make sure that they are the right reasons for you. You may just as easily find more value in something less peppered with add-ons if you don’t need the amenities provided.